fosters_home_for_imaginary_friends___mac_n_bloo_by_xglider-d6j7oj1“This is the last time huh?” I ask, sitting on the corner of the bed, swinging my feet a couple of inches off the floor, as she roots through her closet of old clothes.

“Scratch-” she says my name limply, like she’s embarrassed or ashamed by it now. We had grown apart, it’s true, and we barely talk anymore and we play even less. I couldn’t help but feel like I was already being forgotten.

She turns and looks up at me with those sad eyes, ringed in messy eyeliner and a fresh coating of lip-gloss over her mouth.  I think about her a lifetime ago, back when she first discovered make-up in in her mom’s purse and how we laughed as I smeared her eye shadow across her eye lids, and I threw the compact power across the room, making it snow. I tried confessing to the crime and tell them it was me, but they didn’t listen and only you got in trouble.  You cried into your pillow and told me leave you alone, to just go away, but I stayed by your side all night anyway, stroking your hair, and telling you silly stories just to see you smile, to hear you laugh.

“Come on, “ I beg, I’ll play whatever you want, I’ll be the dragon with tiny wings growing out of his back, or be your roommate as we play house, I’ll let you be the princess in a big marble castle and chase you around in the falling leaves,  or we can just sit and talk.”

Her phone rings, and she turns aside to flick the glowing screen sideways. It’s another message from her school friend.

“Is she nice?” I ask, like a jealous boyfriend.

“Yeah, course she’s nice.” She replies defensively.

“What all do you do?”

She shrugs.

“I don’t know. Talk, I guess.”

“You don’t play games? Like the dragon and the princess, do you jump in puddles like we used too, or roll around in piles of dead leaves?”

“No…” She mumbles. “She’s really not into all of that.”

When she’d started going to school I’d sit on her bed, watching out of her window and wait for her school bus to pull up and spill her out. She’d be dragging a bag of books, with her hair all a mess, spilling out stories about her day, her teachers and the friends she made.

I was there when the first boy she ever liked broke her heart and she came and sat next to me crying and I sat with her, telling these kinds of hurts will happen and how it was a good thing. Because it tells her she’s still here, she’s still alive and reminds her that the hurt doesn’t last forever and begin a tickle fight, which I would always win. Some days we’d sit in bed together and play for hours. Sometimes she wouldn’t go to school the next day and I’d have her to myself for a whole twenty-four hours.

“Can’t we just play one more time?” I ask

She sighs and looks at her phone again.

“Please.”

There’s a cold feeling in my bones, like the empty space of the room is eating away at me and the only thing keeping it at bay is her eyes. They’re fixed on me; smudged eyeliner and the chin jutting out like she used to do when she was smaller and wanted to look braver.

“I have to go.”

She stops at the door and looks at me. There’s a look in her eye that says she knows it’s the last time we’re going to see each other.

“I have friends now,” she says. “I don’t need you anymore.”

She leaves and I look at the closed white door and feel the emptiness come rolling in.

“But I do.” There is no one left to listen as I fade away and become forgotten in the waves of times, waiting for the day she has a little girl of her own who’ll dream of me too.

Years past and I’m swimming in nothingness, until one day, I open my eyes and I’m back, it feels like waking from a dream, but nothing feels real. Then I look around and see how everything is so different and unrecognizable, but then I see him, the small blond haired boy, sitting all alone in his bed, staring fearfully at his closet door, calling out softly for his mother who can’t hear him.  I follow his gaze, and see the closet door opening slowly inch by inch. I act without thinking, charging at the door and slamming it shut, I’ll always protect him from the monsters that lurk in the dark.
Then I feel his tiny little hand tugging at my coat and I look down, as he asks,

“What’s your name?”

“Scratch,” I say, smiling warmly ruffling his hair and for perhaps the first time I see the resemblance.

“Scratch? My mom used to tell me stories about you.”

I smile and nod, and I say, “Yes, I knew your mother.” Then I take his hand and guide him back to his bed and begin tucking him in, as he asks me to tell him a story, so I take a breath and begin telling him stories his mother and I used tell each other back when she was just a little girl.